Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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The disparities Native Americans face become much more visible in crisis times. Disparity of opportunities, discrimination and lack of access to financing are just some of the obstacles they face, and to succeed requires resilience, strength and endurance.

Recovery Fund Zone grants of up to $5.5 million will be made available for long-term recovery to Indigenous community-led projects in New Mexico through a New Mexico Foundation program announced last week. The New Mexico Foundation will accept proposals for eligible projects until Oct. 14.

As state and tribal governments get ready to receive hundreds of millions of dollars of federal recovery and infrastructure funding over the next two to three years, a unique funding opportunity, the Native American Recovery Fund zone grant, is available to support Native-led recovery projects in the following areas: Family Economic Security, Health Systems, Local Food Systems, Opportunity Youth and Water Resilience. The grant funding is intended to build the capacity of these organizations and connect them as directly as possible to larger funding sources to help these projects achieve their development goals.

The Recovery Fund zone grant enables the foundation to leverage its funding and provide deeper support to Native-led recovery efforts than they otherwise would have. The money will initially support 12 projects with grants of up to $25,000 in the first year. The first grants are expected to be awarded in November. The 12 projects will receive additional money through the following two years. Funding will also go to Native-led organizations whose work is complementary to the original 12 projects including a Leadership Network that will build capabilities of the leaders of these projects.

The New Mexico Foundation has teamed up with local, regional and national partners to create the Native American Recovery Fund zone grant to support Native-driven recovery projects. The collaborative effort seeks to provide up to $5.5M in support to Native-Led Recovery Projects. The grant, which has so far raised about $2.5 million of the $5.5 million, is managed by the New Mexico Foundation. Organizers include Roanhorse Consulting LLC, Pivotal New Mexico, Groundworks New Mexico and 501(c)PA,

Funders will partner and build new relationships with Native American leaders and tribes to broaden their perspectives and approaches to funding Indigenous communities. Foundations that have donated so far include Albuquerque Community Foundation, Wells Fargo Bank, Anchorum St. Vincent, The Aspen Institute, Con Alma Health Foundation, McCune Charitable Foundation, Santa Fe Community Foundation, Native American Advised Fund, Thornburg Foundation, Colorado River Sustainability Campaign and other donors who have not publicized their names.

“Despite incredibly challenging conditions for our Native American communities across the state through the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to see resilience and leadership emerge as we work to ‘build back better’ in the coming years,” said JoAnn Melchor, President and CEO of the New Mexico Foundation.

Grant decisions are expected to be announced by October 30, 2021, followed by a possible grantee convening in late November. For more information on applying for the Native American Recovery Fund zone grant: newmexicofoundation.org/native-american-recovery-fund-zone-grant/.

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Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

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